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UT train derails

BY KRISTINA KNIGHT | WENDOVER, UT | September 13, 2001

Early Thursday morning, an Amtrak passenger train derailed east of Wendover, Utah, hit a freight train and caught fire. Thursday night, emergency workers and investigators were still working the scene, sifting through the wreckage trying to figure out just what happened.

Two locomotives and fifteen cars left the track Thursday morning at 5:30. Seven of the cars were passenger cars, and witnesses at the scene said that four of the passenger cars were resting on their sides. One engine sustained heavy fire damage.

The California Zephyr train, enroute from Chicago to Oakland, carried several passengers who had been stranded at the Salt Lake City Airport due to the air stoppages in the United States.

Six of the 202 passengers were life-flighted to hospitals in the Salt Lake City region because of broken bones and smoke inhalation. But, officials state no one was killed. The rest of the passengers were taken to the Wendover Community Building.

County Emergency Management agents requested help almost immediately from The Salvation Army because of the large number of emergency services personnel.

Jon Wallace, divisional disaster services coordinator for The Salvation Army InterMountain Divisional Headquarters said, "The Salvation Army has service extension units, and our local service unit immediately went to give support."

The town of Wendover turned out to form a volunteer army to help the survivors of the derailment. Wallace said more than 200 volunteers from the town turned out to serve food and drink and talk with people in the crash.

"There were several local churches, and the town was mobilized. The volunteers served food and someone coordinated the making of sandwiches and food from the local restaurants and casinos, which are just across the state line in Nevada."

The Salvation Army canteen, a mobile kitchen, was dispatched from Ogden, UT. The canteen and Salvation Army workers will be on hand through the weekend to give food and supportive services to workers of the derailment. Local volunteers and workers from The Salvation Army are staffing the Canteen.

"We are providing food and beverages and supportive services, like counseling, but really we're just there to listen when workers need to talk."

On Thursday, there are nearly 200 emergency services workers, hazardous materials investigators, and local investigators working the scene to determine a cause for the derailment. Wallace says the canteen will stay on the scene until these workers are allowed to leave or have finished their investigation. "Primarily the people at the crash site are emergency personnel and investigators. Our Salvation Army volunteers are staffing the canteen which is on site supporting those people," said Wallace.

Thirty buses were rounded up and took the remaining passengers of the California Zephyr to Sacramento Thursday night.

"Interestingly enough," said Wallace, "many of these passengers had been stranded at the Salt Lake City Airport because of the air system shutdown, and so they were trying to get back west by taking the train. And they only made it about two hours west of town."

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